|The State will lose out on nearly ₹380 crore in Central government aid after the Irrigation Department, in an attempt to claim credit for completing projects in record time, declared a pending project as complete.|
The incomplete project will ensure that wealthy farmers continue to have a monopoly on the available water through private lift irrigation schemes.
Work on the Warna irrigation project at Chandoli in Sangli district began in 1976. The construction of the dam, with a water storage capacity of 34.40 TMC, was completed in 2002. The project has a left canal (70 km in proposed length) and right canal (60 km in proposed length). For the former, work on only 38 km has been completed, while on the latter work on only a 30 km stretch is done.
In 2016, the total project cost was fixed at ₹1,174.98 crore, of which ₹783.29 crore has been spent. In 2016-17, the project was included in the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, and was eligible for funds to complete the remaining work.
In its report dated June 8, 2017, The State Irrigation Department informed the Centre that the project is complete, while also acknowledging that work on the canals is still pending. The certificate of completion given by the department will mean that the State will not receive ₹378.95 crore required to complete the project from the Centre.
The department said it hasn’t received funds from the Centre since 2012-13, and claimed that it is unlikely to get any Central assistance or loan from NABARD. It also claimed that most of the land that was to benefit from the project is under irrigation. Hence, a work completion report was submitted to the Centre, it said.
Enraged by the department’s action, Shivajirao Naik, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from Shirala in Sangli district, will write to Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari, seeking his intervention in the matter. The issue was also discussed at a recently held a meeting in Mantralaya. The minutes of the meeting are available with The Hindu.
Mr. Naik said, “Private lift irrigation schemes from wealthy farmers are being used to irrigate land. The officials, instead of rechecking the work, said the project is complete and land is under irrigation.”
He said these private lift irrigation schemes are a nightmare for small farmers, who have to pay 25% of their income to large farmers in return of water.
State Irrigation Minister Girish Mahajan was not available for comment.